Minister unveils new farming network

Farm minister Jim Paice is to unveil a new network he claims will give producers a real chance to shape government policies.

The Rural and Farming Network will give farmers a hotline to the heart of government, Mr Paice will tell the Oxford Farming Conference on Wednesday (4 January).

In doing so, it will enable farmers to directly shape future rural policies, he will say.

Fourteen networks representing different areas of England will be unveiled to help make policies more rural-friendly by identifying and feeding back local issues and concerns straight to ministers.

The networks will bring together people from rural communities, rural businesses and the food and farming industries.

“For too long our rural communities have been overlooked and had too little say in decisions which affect them,” Mr Paice will tell conference delegates. “We are putting that right.”

“They will have direct access to ministers and, just as importantly, ministers will use them to ensure we understand the impact of our policies.

They will make a direct link between rural areas and the government, creating new opportunities to develop better and more targeted policy.”

Mr Paice will describe DEFRA as the “listening” department that will promote rural interests, based on direct contact with the people whose livelihoods it champions.

Each group will also be a vital point of contact in the event of local emergencies – such as flooding – giving advice and information so assistance can keep businesses running, he will say.

The Rural and Farming Network will meet for the first time in early 2012 and then on individual policy areas or issues of importance to rural communities.

It will sit alongside a £165m package of measures to support rural communities announced last month as the Rural Economy Growth Review.